The Project hosts left outraged as refugee in Djokovic's hotel speaks: ‘Cruel’

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The Project hosts were left appalled and fired up after speaking with an Iranian refugee who has been detained in the same hotel as Novak Djokovic for months now.

Djokovic is staying at the Park Hotel in Melbourne's inner north, known for housing refugees flown from Manus Island and Nauru, while he awaits his highly anticipated court appearance on Monday when lawyers will attempt to overturn the federal government's deportation order.

The Project hosts Lisa Wilkinson and Peter Van Onselen
The Project hosts were left fired up after a refugee detained in the same hotel as Djokovic spoke out. Photo: Channel 10

Mehdi Ali has been a refugee in Australia for the past nine years and has been detained at the hotel for a couple of months.

Mehdi said while he initially got “excited” about the media attention surrounding the hotel, he quickly became “disappointed” and “sad” because the only reason people found out about them is due to the World No.1 tennis player's stay at the same hotel.

The 24-year-old fills his day by sleeping as much as he can to “kill the time”. He spends a lot of his time laying on his bed, reading books and watching movies.

Despite this, Mehdi said “there’s always hope” and his fate is up to the minister.


Peter Van Onselen and Lisa Wilkinson looking at each other on The Project
Peter Van Onselen called their treatment "disgusting". Photo: Channel 10

“They won’t actually give us a deadline. I’ve been in detention for almost nine years, though I’ve never committed a crime in my whole life. I’ve served my time, you know?”

Mehdi choked up when he talked about Nauru, saying he is “traumatised”, was diagnosed with PTSD and called it a “cruel place.

“It wasn't safe at all. Me personally, I was about to die there,” he said.

The Project host Peter Van Onselen called the fact that Mehdi has been in detention since he was a 15-year-old child “disgusting” and asked him how hopeful he was that the global spotlight might change his situation.

“When Djokovic is going to get out of here, probably no-one will pay attention to us,” Mehdi said.

Novak Djokovic holding up a tennis racket
Djokovic is staying at the Park Hotel in Melbourne's inner north, known for housing refugees flown from Manus Island and Nauru. Photo: Getty Images

He also called on Djokovic to speak out about their situation “because he has a strong voice” and he is getting a tiny glimpse into what detention life is like for refugees.

“Tell the world how cruel it is to keep human beings in rooms in detention indefinitely,' he said. 

The Project host Nazeem Hussein described the situation as a “microcosm of two very different sides of Australian life there”.

“One man, the state governments would do anything to get him out of there because of a world-class sporting event. But in the same hotel, we’ve got these refugees that we treat so horribly. Our system for immigration is almost from a different world.”

Peter Van Onselen called out the government’s treatment of refugees, saying: “This is somebody being used as reverse bait. It's just disgusting. And it does need to have a light shone on it pretty much permanently, frankly.”

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